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Borough Targets Personette Property for Open Space

Caldwell has until the end of the year to use or lose Green Acres dollars.

The Caldwell Council has picked a controversial property on Personette Street as a potential open space acquisition.

The council voted 5-0 Tuesday to explore buying 27 Personette St., the longtime location of the Knights of Columbus Hall, which is back on the market after a  recently fell through. Councilman John Kelley abstained from the vote, which occurred late Tuesday night after the governing body came out of executive session. 

Caldwell has until the end of the year to use or lose more than $300,000 in Green Acres funding, according to Mayor Ann Dassing.

The council has contracted with the Land Conservancy of New Jersey, a firm that assists municipalities with obtaining Green Acres funding. Dassing said there are more than a dozen steps required to get Green Acres dollars and the Land Conservancy of New Jersey would monitor and help carry out those steps for the borough.

The Knights of Columbus Hall is listed by Gartland Realtors of Fairfield for $250,000, according to the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service. The lot size is 75' by 114'.

The property is owned by an entity called the Columbian Club because the Knights of Columbus are forbidden to own real estate, has been for sale for more than two years. The club can no longer afford the building where it has met for decades due to diminishing membership.

What was once the site of regular club meetings and activities, as well as a popular rental space for parties, has stood vacant for months—and some vocal residents would like to keep it that way.

When the Knights dropped their selling price significantly earlier this year, Life Source Church made an offer. The use of the building as a church is permissible under the current zoning.

Life Sourcein April. Their plans did not include increasing square footage of the one-story building and therefore they were not required to create parking. There is no parking on the existing lot.

Residents, who were growing accustomed to the empty building and quieter neighborhood, voiced their opposition at both recent council and Planning Board meetings. They said there’s a lack of adequate parking on the block to begin with which would only be exacerbated by church activities.

Personette Street resident Hilda Moore presented the council with a petition Tuesday night she said contained more than a 100 signatures of residents of Personette, Kirkwood Place and Orchard Square. The petition asks the governing body to "initiate an ordinance that prohibits the sale of rental, conveyance or by any other methods the establishment of any religious congregation...and also entertainment or business, commercial purpose within this residential neighborhood."

Opponents have been told repeatedly that the zoning ordinance cannot be changed legally to prevent a church or other house of worship from moving in, an illegal practice called "spot zoning."

“You can’t zone to a wish list, you can only zone to what exists,” Borough Attorney Greg Mascera said Tuesday.

Caldwell Councilman Tom O’Donnell proposed the resolution to consider purchasing the land and demolishing the building.

“I think it’s in the town’s interest,” O’Donnell said.

Mayor Dassing said there would be costs to consider, including remediating soil from where an oil tank was removed and dealing with asbestos in the building.

Other properties being considered for open space are on Forest Avenue, Wakefield Place and Arlington Avenue, Dassing said.

Chiefs fan July 18, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Open Space is better than a "church" with questionable tenants from Eastern Essex County.
Sandra Duguid July 18, 2012 at 06:54 PM
A church is a church. I understand the parking situation. Otherwise, it is a privilege to have a church in one's neighborhood.
jo July 18, 2012 at 08:31 PM
A congregation has no means to assemble because of the physical limitations to park the vehicles of their congregation is a major problem. The "church" essentially is not the issue it is the volume and access of vehicles with no place to park that makes this "legally" prohibited. This issue would be exactly the same for any buisness that requires their clientele to be present in large numbers.
anthony j. popola July 19, 2012 at 01:18 AM
buy it with green acres funds..why not...a few years ago they bought that black hole in the cedars...just to keep the 12 homes that border it happy...
jim matarazzo July 19, 2012 at 01:33 AM
the kofc property is not what by any standard should be considered open space. that a modest church would use as a house of worship and a governing body with no backbone would cow tail to a few neighbors just because they are more vocal scares the living daylights out of me.. i was fortunate to serve as mayor for north caldwell for 16 years. i enjoyed my neighboring mayors reiher, st john, shore , mcwilliams, treffinger, debell. mega. all had more backbone and vision than any local mayor i see now with the exception of tempesta. if you want to be a good mayor you need a set of balls. sorry muriel you know what i mean.
jim matarazzo July 19, 2012 at 02:03 AM
did not the knights run many functions there in their heyday. so whats the big deal
jim matarazzo July 19, 2012 at 02:28 AM
thats a little bias
jim matarazzo July 19, 2012 at 02:30 AM
not what these state funds were originally mean,t for
JoAnn D July 19, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Just as a point of interest to the grossly uninformed, most of the members of LSC are from the Caldwells, Roseland, Verona and Cedar Grove (not that it should matter). Yes, we are your neighbors and in spite of our human condition that causes us to be offended by slander spoken against LSC, we will honor the second commandment to the glory of the God who created all of us. May God bless you and all the good people of Essex County
Michael July 19, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Not sure where the property is located but Caldwell really could use some Municipal Parking. can that be done with this lot?? Would it benefit the stores on the ave that are losing money every day due to parking issues?
Caldwell Oldtimer July 19, 2012 at 04:37 PM
"Open Space" in this context is not intended to be taken so concretely, The intent of PL 1997, C. 24 includes the following: "By replacing older laws for dedicated county and municipal tax levies (N.J.S.A. 40:12-10 et seq) with separate, but similar sections for counties and municipalities, the new law sets forth procedures for establishing a dedicated tax for one or more of the following purposes: Acquisition of lands for recreation and conservation purposes; Development of lands acquired for recreation and conservation purposes; Maintenance of lands acquired for recreation and conservation purposes; Acquisition of farmland for farmland preservation purposes; Historic preservation of historic properties, structures, facilities, sites, areas, or objects, and the acquisition of such properties, facilities, sites, areas, or objects for historic preservation purposes; etc." It certainly sounds like the Knights' property is an appropriate candidate for what the Caldwell Council has approved.
Caldwell Oldtimer July 19, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Perhaps former Mayor Matarazzo thinks that the Personette Street residents are reacting to a "vocal" congregation, but that is inaccurate and misguided. I heard these neighbors present their concerns and the issue was one word- parking. To characterize the residents' concerns differently is demeaning to them and the validity of the parking issue. More serious is this personal attack by Matarazzo on some of the current Mayors in general and Mayor Dassing in particular. I hope that Matarazzo will take the time to become more knowledgeable about the Open Space laws and the facts about Caldwell's efforts to respond to the very real and serious parking issues for residents, businesses and visitors. The sexist language used to put down the current Mayor is inappropriate and offensive. More puzzling is the inclusion of James Treffinger in a list of local mayors with "backbone and vision." My memories of Treffinger include his guilty plea for obstruction of justice, mail fraud, and soliciting an illegal campaign contribution in exchange for a county contract. Shame on you, Matarazzo!
anthony j. popola July 19, 2012 at 10:30 PM
i would have no problem with more parking...
anthony j. popola July 19, 2012 at 10:38 PM
sorry to correct you ,but it's kowtowing... i don't live on that street, but how would you like that church next door to you ..I don't think you live there anymore...whatever...from what i have read in the progress, you have had your share of whiners in your town...you think you're the only one with balls.....hahaha

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